Rwanda may not have many fiction writers but the country has much to boast about on oral literature.
Visit a Rwandan wedding ceremony any day and sample the drama in song and speech displayed in entertaining witticisms that spice the negotiations to secure a bride.
Still, the Intore dance is the most visible. And, such is the verve and intensity of the Rwandan arts, such as kwivuga and the nuanced stories told in dance, that it does not surprise many that the National Intore Dancers have on occasion been crowned world champions.
For a country so endowed with talent in the oral arts, it is probably a matter of time before we see a rise in the local output of literary works.
Some of the better known Rwandan authors include Benjamin Sehene representing the current crop of writers and Severio Niyigisiki who, having penned the play “L’Optimiste” in 1940 and his first novel (Escapade Rwandaise) in 1948 can be termed the father of Rwandan modern literature.
Between those two authors, not many have emerged since. Blame has often been placed on poor reading culture, and therefore the reluctance of local publishing houses to promote local authors in order to concentrate on the more lucrative school or college text books.
It may be true that the supposed lack of readership may be feeding the purported reluctance of the publishers and vice versa ensuring a vicious cycle, but it remains moot as an argument.
There are those who argue that if there remains a captive audience of Rwandan art such as that displayed during wedding ceremonies, this should be capitalised upon with all the artistic license to give people what they want.
If, on the other hand, the issue between the author and the publisher is a stalemate, there could be a silver bullet to both in the name of the Internet.
While the publisher could enhance his local and global reach with an innovative and well positioned website, the prospective author will find free and credible publishing on the internet with literally no questions asked.
The internet, through sites such as lulu.com, has offered an option where authors publish their works in any format from hardcover books to ebooks and still have an opportunity to make some money.
There are also sites such as watt.com where readers and authors freely exchange stories online. There is also the aspect of promoting your work through social media which has today emerged as the trend in marketing.
The bottom line is that if an author feels strongly enough, such as those who feel shortchanged by the publisher and is not averse to self-publishing, the internet offers a limitless option including blogging if one is so inclined.
In the end, it is about the quality of thought and the ideas proffered. This includes promotion of the work to ensure that the author’s voice is heard and not lost in the vastness of the internet.